How to Customize the Perfect Zipper

How to make a custom zipper! Tutorial for shortening zippers and making custom zippers from parts // Closet Case Patterns

Our Blanca Flight Suit has a whole bunch of options for customization with zippers! There is the long front placket zipper as well as two zippered breast pockets. With all these different lengths and weights to choose from, we thought we would show you how to build a custom zipper from parts we sourced on the internet as well as how to shorten a zipper you may already have. I’ll put a list of sources at the bottom of this post you can check out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve settled down to a fun sewing project only to realize I don’t have the right zipper for the job. Whether you go the route of getting a bunch of parts so you can build as you go, or buying a bunch of long zippers in neutral colours that you can shorten as needed, if you stock up and know how to customize, you’ll never be waiting on a shopping trip, or an online order again. It’s super simple, let me show you how.

MATERIALS

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

  • Pliers (needle-nose and regular)
  • Non-fabric scissors
  • Ruler or measuring tape
  • Marking tool
  • Zipper tape
  • Zipper pulls (the size of your tape)
  • Zipper stops or needle and thread

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

Open the zipper tape a little bit so you can get at the first rows of teeth. You have to be careful you don’t open it too much or you’ll waste your zipper. That said, if you do accidentally go too far you can massage the teeth back together diagonally, encouraging them along the way.

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

To remove metal zipper teeth I used needle-nose pliers. I developed a bit of a technique by twisting them off but you’ll have to try and see what works for you. These are really strong, high-quality zippers so they do NOT want to come off easily. If you are using a plastic zipper you might be able to cut them off with strong scissors.

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

You’ll want to remove around 1/2″ worth of teeth from both sides of your tape.

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

Working from the flat end, install your zipper pull onto your tape. You might have to wed those first teeth together, as I said earlier, to get it on.

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

If you are finding the zipper a little sticky you can use a little candle wax rubbed on it or a drop of sewing machine oil (as I did) to help it along.

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

You can use one of these little stoppers that have bendy prongs. You’ll stick it through the top, right before the first tooth. Crimp the prongs down to hold it in place. Another method for making sure your pull doesn’t come off is to simply sew it. Using a doubled thread in a colour similar to your zipper tape, you just whip stitch in the same place you would put the stopper and tie a generous knot. Once your zipper is installed in your garment you won’t be able to see this, ideally.

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

To make your zipper the right length, measure from this point to your desired length and make a mark on the tape.

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

This is where you will install your bottom stopper if you are using one. You could also whip stitch over both sets of teeth with a doubled thread as above.

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

For this step, I used a heavier set of pliers since my needle nose pair were not up to the task!

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

Cut the tape about 1/2″ from below your stopper. Please don’t use your fabric scissors to do this!

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

Go ahead and remove those teeth as well.

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

Since the nylon frayed a little I (very carefully!) melted the end using a flame. This will only work with plastic zipper tape, if you are using cotton zipper tape you can just trim it up a bit so you get a tidy install.

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

The options are endless in terms of building different kinds of zippers. You could make ones that open from both ends, or two pulls in the middle (suitcase style).

How to Build a Custom Zipper // Closet Case Patterns

HOW TO SHORTEN A ZIPPER

Measure from your bottom stopper the distance you want you finished zipper to be, and mark on both sides of the zipper tape.

Open your zipper so the pull is below your marking.

Install a new stopper on either side or whip stitch both sides with a doubled thread as we did above.

Cut the zipper tape about 1/2″ above your stopper or sewing with pinking shears, if you have them.

Cut off the plastic teeth with a pair of regular (non-fabric!) scissors or if using a metal zip, you can pull them off with the pliers.

Voila! Your new shortened zipper! Ready to install.

Ready to stock up? Here’s some online sources to check out:

Pin this for future reference!

How to make a custom zipper! Tutorial for shortening zippers and making custom zippers from parts // Closet Case Patterns

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Hi! I'm Heather Lou, a pattern designer and sewing educator for the modern maker. At Closet Case Patterns, we transform your imagination into step-by-step implementation that helps you create a wardrobe you love - not one you're limited to buying off the rack.

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